Selectors have to show more backbone

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Friday, February 4, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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The Indian team's disastrous tour of Australia has put pressure on the selection committee to make changes for the South African series to follow. Whether the selection committee will show more backbone than the Indian batsmen did or whether they put self-interest before that of the country's will be seen soon.

The committee embarked on a policy to look at the future of Indian cricket and to encourage youngsters and they have copped a bit of stick from some for that, but the majority who have Indian cricket's real interests at heart have welcomed their initiative.

No doubt the captain and the coach will have their input and give their report on the tour and whether there are specific areas that need to be looked at and strengthened, but how far their views will be accepted is going to decide a lot.

It is no secret that the omission of two senior players from the team has been more due to the harmony factor than anything else, and whether the selectors accept that is what Indian cricket lovers will be waiting to see.

In this context, it may be interesting to see what has happened in another sport with less personnel than a cricket team. Switzerland has a new Davis Cup captain in Jakob Hlasek and he has dropped the country's best player Marc Rosset from the squad that is to play the champions Australia over the weekend.

Hlasek has been quoted, "I want to create a spirit for the future and this is the right time. Marc Rosset is a difficult player to get along with. Either you are on his side or not and I've decided not to take him because of the harmony I need to have in the side. He isn't the player he was and he isn't the number one player in Switzerland anymore, but this is mostly a decision taken for human reasons. He would not be good for the team. I know he had some good results in the Davis Cup, so I expect I will be criticised in Switzerland for this decision. But, I cannot let the fact that he played well in the past become a distraction. Now I have to forget him and set my mind on what is best for the other players in the team".

Here in Australia, Hlasek has come in for praise for his decision to put team before anything else and his policy to pick the best team rather than the best individuals has been lauded, as Rosset is universally considered both difficult and a loner and not suited for a team game. Switzerland may well lose to Australia very badly, but at least they will have sent a message to other players about what is expected of them.

Nayan Mongia's experience when he was sent in as cover for M S K Prasad was not exactly pleasant and it was a sad sight to see someone, who had played with distinction for the country, alone and seemingly friendless. The awful hurry in which he was sent back too was hard to understand for he could have been sent as soon as play began in the third Test, because then it would have been certain that he was not needed. What if having sent him back M S K Prasad had got injured? Would Mongia have been flown back again? This is where Indian cricket makes a fool of itself for it allows petty egos to rule the roost.

Unfortunately for Mongia, nobody is making a case for him as they are for Azhar and here again Indian cricket is getting it wrong. Mongia, without a doubt, was the best wicketkeeper in the world when he was dropped, while Azhar was not even the best batsman in the Indian team. Yet Mongia's name hardly ever gets mentioned when there is talk about the selections and don't forget the age factor too.

The Indian captain rightfully said in one of his interviews that India needs to do something about domestic cricket, but even here it is more important for players like him to play in the domestic tourneys. That would be one sure way in which the performances can be assessed properly rather than now when with all the international players being absent, no realistic appraisal can be made of the quality of the players who play in the domestic competitions.

Let us see how many of the players who have come from the tour will play in the Challenger tournament and how many will back out with some excuse or the other. Many will claim that they are tired from non-stop cricket and need a break, but at the same time, if there was a masala tour on, they would forget their tiredness and hop onto the flight and play wherever.

There is simply no money in the Challenger tournament and it is hardly a surprise that some big names will stay out. The Indian board also needs to take the blame, for their programming has been thoughtless and unless the board sets up a special cricket committee whose decisions are mandatory, the muddle will continue.

This committee should be like the cricket committee of the ICC whose decisions are mandatory on the ICC to implement. But unlike the ICC where there is representation for all Test-playing countries and three others representing the associate members, this one should be a small one and not an unwieldy one.

But of course, we know that those in power will not want to dilute their authority and nothing will be done and the same old things will carry on as before. To expect brilliance from Indian sportsmen, when there is mediocrity in administration, is too much. In all this the sports lover gets not only shortchanged but also frustrated and takes it out on the players. If you look all over the world, there is progress in the infrastructure for sports in terms of stadia and facilities for training and improving, but India languishes in the stone age and that needs to be rectified more than anything else. Indian sport needs people who will take it forward and not look backwards. There lies the tragedy of Indian sport.

Professional Management Group

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